Monday, November 9, 2015

One Simple Minded Opinion on a Complex Subject

A Portland Resident and Lay Person’s View about the Proposed Digest er

            I am a third generation resident of Portland. I grew up in the Neighborhood in the 50’s and 60’s and know from first hand experience the attention residents in this part of Louisville receive from the city as far as garbage pick-up, clean and well- maintained streets and sidewalks as well as the general attitude that Portland is the neighborhood where all the “trash” goes. My parents and other neighbors were always busy cleaning up and doing the best they could to keep our “side of the street clean.”
            I have returned to Portland after years away and have become actively involved in all the activities going on to revitalize our neighborhood and uplift our image. I have been actively following the efforts of a group of people interested in creating the area known as Food port that will impact my neighborhood. When I attended the first informational meeting at Western Middle School, I was fascinated with the idea of the digester – a contraption that will take food waste and create energy from the methane gas produced.   
Wow! I thought. I remember the stinky smells from garbage cans and areas around the River that people used to dump their food waste when I was a kid. I didn’t like those stinky smells in my neighborhood. Technology can be wonderful when used wisely. I know all too well the dangers of misuse of the internet and all that has brought into our society, so I appreciated the Food port representatives setting up informational meetings and answering all the questions directed to them honestly and straightforwardly. I was excited about the possibility of creating energy (clean energy) from garbage. I had read all kinds of reports of this already in use in Japan and countries in Europe. Therefore, I was stunned to read the article in the Courier-Journal a few weeks ago that said the digester was being suspended because of strong neighborhood resistance on the idea that this was just another way of “dumping” on poor neighborhoods.
I thought about that a lot as I was volunteering with PUP (Picking up Portland) and picking up lots of food waste that consumers here in Portland were dumping onto our streets and vacant lots. If we don’t want to be dumped on, then stop dumping on ourselves and our neighbors and expect somebody else to carry your waste to a landfill that may or may not be in your neighborhood.
 Like all citizens, I am concerned about air pollution from chemicals, so I did a little research about the chemicals being released into our air, water and soil – that are the major culprits. I also read about some of the technologies and methods being used and studied to combat this problem. I have copied and pasted some articles I found on the internet for you to read. This is not overly technical. It is easy to read and understand. After reading, I hope you will discover ways that you can help as an individual and better understand the things that are being done by our government and its agents to help us all.

“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2013, CO2 accounted for about 82% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere as part of the Earth's carbon cycle (the natural circulation of carbon among the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, and animals). Human activities are altering the carbon cycle—both by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and by influencing the ability of natural sinks, like forests, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While CO2 emissions come from a variety of natural sources, human-related emissions are responsible for the increase that has occurred in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.” [1]

 The main human activity that emits CO2 is the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) for energy and transportation, although certain industrial processes and land-use changes also emit CO2. On the individual level this means: driving, electrical energy use and consumption of manufactured products and processed foods. What can individuals do to reduce this? Reduce (driving, turn off lights or energy using appliances when not in use). Reuse (Stop throwing away so much, especially one-time use plastics). It takes fossil fuels to manufacture that plastic bottle you drink your water from and the plastic also creates noxious gas as it is left to decompose on the sidewalk, in yards or in a landfill. Recycle -Stop throwing away materials that can be reused.

“Methane gas is also dangerous to the environment and its percentages in the atmosphere have increased since the Industrial Revolution. What is the main source of methane in our environment? “About 60 percent of global methane emissions stem from human activity—aside from landfills, the chief anthropogenic culprits are natural gas production and use, coal mines, and "enteric fermentation" (the polite term for the burps of livestock).” Therefore, what can humans do to decrease the amount of methane being produced by our garbage? “As a consumer, you can help a minuscule amount by reducing the amount of waste you send to landfills. But the most promising solutions aren't on the end-user level. The Lantern mentioned one such remedy a few weeks back: capturing methane from landfills and then using it to generate electricity or to supply gas-hungry industrial operations. In the agricultural realm, those cow burps can be made less methane-rich by fiddling with the animals' diets; Australian scientists contend, for example, that adding cottonseed oil to livestock feed can reduce each cow's methane emissions by up to 30 percent. (The typical cow belches forth about a third of a pound of methane per day.)”

These are not a bunch of scientific charts with numbers and exponential s and complicated math. I have simply written down the things I considered when I first heard about the digest er. I still don’t know if it is perfectly safe, however, in my simple mind, I think the dangers of the digest er are far less than what I have heard about nuclear waste and pipelines. I do, however, prefer a machine that takes garbage that has been dumped and puts it into a machine that scrubs it and turns it into energy or fertilizer to breathing in the methane from careless dumping of waste. This is much more preferable in my opinion than living in a neighborhood where I have to walk past and smell toxic cigarette butts and food and container waste left on the sidewalk or vacant lots or clogging our drains.

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